After a Catastrophic Event

It can be a revealing exercise to consider a catastrophic event happening. Let’s define that as one that is photographic in nature. For example, imagine all of your camera gear getting lost, stolen or damaged beyond repair. Each of us would suddenly go from having our photographic needs met by our current gear… to having to start over and build a new kit from scratch. Deciding what we would do after a catastrophic event isn’t as easy as it first appears. A number of factors come into play when starting from ‘ground zero’ again.

One of the first things that may come to mind for some of us is whether we would even replace our current camera gear at all. Some folks may just decide to use their cellphones. Their photographic needs may have changed and the capabilities of new generation cell phones may be sufficient for them.

There may be career oriented issues that could surface. For example, as a ‘senior citizen’ I’d have to consider how much longer I plan on doing client video work. If my decision was to simply close down my video production business, it would have a significant impact on my choice of replacement camera gear.

There are many changes currently happening in the camera market with manufacturers making a push with full frame mirrorless products. Many of us would need to decide if we really need, or want, full frame gear. And, if we didn’t want to go the full frame route, what path would we choose?

Even the choice of a basic camera configuration would come into play. Would we still need an interchangeable lens camera kit, or would some kind of fixed lens zoom camera meet our needs? Or, would we choose several different fixed lens cameras to meet various photographic specialties?

Some of us who use smaller sensor camera gear like Nikon 1 or M4/3 may scratch our heads when deciding what to do. Those of us who love to use Nikon 1 would need to accept that there is nothing else currently available that provides the same size/performance ratio as our Nikon 1 gear did. Changing to any other interchangeable lens camera equipment would result in us now having to use larger and heavier camera gear.

Would we migrate to M4/3 and buy either Panasonic or Olympus equipment? How committed to M4/3 is Panasonic given its recent move into full frame cameras? Olympus still seems committed to M4/3. Does the company have the staying power in the market, given that its camera business lost money in 2018?

Is buying replacement DSLR gear a sensible thing to do? Or, would we just be buying into future dead-end systems if manufacturers abandoned DSLRs and went entirely mirrorless in the next few years to come?

We would need to consider the reality that the camera market is continuing to contract. The array of products that is currently available will likely contract along with the market. That contraction will also be accompanied by higher unit prices. Whatever replacement camera equipment we purchased would come with some kind of downstream risk.

Some of us have photography as an important part of our lives as it represents a method of visual creative expression. Would we decide that it is time to move on from photography and take up painting, sculpture or some other form of creative expression?

Is it possible that some of us would leave photography and move into video as a potentially more powerful form of visual expression? If so, would we buy dedicated video cameras and forget about the type of still camera gear we currently use?

After a catastrophic event each of us would be forced to re-examine our reasons to own camera equipment. We would also need to understand our photographic passions fully before choosing to replace our camera equipment.

After a catastrophic event what would you do?

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20 thoughts on “After a Catastrophic Event”

  1. Hi Tom
    the only problem that I have is the reliability of my most used lens the 70-300 cx which has been repaired three times now.What makes it more difficult is that I think that this particular optic is brilliant and suites my shooting style so well that it is impossible to think of being without it.When the day dawns that I have to be without it the obvious system at the moment is olympus/Panasonic with the 300 mm F4 and 100-400 respectivel.My preferred lens would be the 300 mm F4 but the cost and weight might just keep me having my 70-300 cx repaired while I can with a back up hopefully found.As good as the other system might be I’m not one for throwing the baby out with the bath water!Be carefull what you wish for has always is always good advice and for the foreseeable future I’m happy with with what I have and like you Tom I own all of it with on or two back ups,just in case.

    1. Hi Stuart,

      It is interesting that you would mention the 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 lens. I have two copies of this lens and my original one has also been repaired three times for the same ‘chattering’ issue at about 240-260 mm. My other copy was purchased as a factory refurbished unit direct from Nikon Canada. So far (touch wood) that lens has not had any issues. There is nothing else available that offers the same performance in such a small, easy to handle package and the 1 Nikkor 70-300.

      In terms of buying second copies of lenses for back-up, I also have duplicate copies of the 6.7-13, 10-100 non-PD and the 30-110. My back-up copy of the 10-100 non-PD was recently repaired under warranty as it developed an aperture control issue after about 6 months of ownership. My 32 mm f/1.2 was also repaired under warranty for the same type of issue. Like all Nikon 1 owners I have plenty of copies of the 10-30 kit lenses.

      This fall, some of my gear will have been in service under much heavier-than-normal use for 6 years. July 2019 will mark four years since I sold all of my full frame gear and began using the Nikon 1 system exclusively for both my personal and professional needs. It has done a stellar job or me and I shudder at the thought of my professional needs forcing a change in system on me. For example, if my clients insisted on 4K video I would need to shift systems to meet this specific need.

      Like you, my instinct would be to move to M4/3, although I would not consider Panasonic as I had a brief and unsuccessful flirtation with a GH4 and a couple of pro f/2.8 Panasonic pro lenses in the past. I won’t disparage the brand with my reply, suffice to say that after 10 days of use I realized I had made a mistake and returned it, paying a small restocking fee.

      At this point in time, Olympus would be the brand that I would investigate if a change was forced upon me. I know of one bird photographer who has had excellent results using the 300 mm f/4. This is a heavy, expensive lens that really needs to be matched up with a body like the OMD E-M1 Mark II for best results. The other Olympus option would be the 40-150 mm f/2.8 matched up with the soon to be announced 2X Olympus teleconverter… that would provide an efov range of 160-600 at f/5.6. In 2020 the Olympus 150-400 f/4.5 (with built-in 1.25 teleconverter) is scheduled to be launched. Coupled with the 2X Olympus teleconverter that lens will provide bird photographers with the ability to shoot hand-held with an efov of 2000 mm. No doubt it will be a very heavy and very expensive lens that will be out-of-range for the vast majority of photographers’ budgets.

      Like you, and am very happy to keep shooting with my Nikon 1 gear! Unlike many owners, my professional needs have me looking over my shoulder more often than I would like.


  2. Hey, it’s only a camera, it’s not like losing an arm or having a heart attack. Now that would be catastrophic.

    1. Hi Ed,
      I totally agree that losing one’s camera gear would not be a catastrophic ‘life event’. The article defines the term catastrophic in terms of a photographic event.

  3. Sorry to hear one of your 70-300 CX lenses has the cable issue. One of the positives of the N1 is its modularity. Nothing is very expensive, if you buy used or have it repaired in Taiwan. Only yesterday a “little used” CX 70-300 was sold for Euro 160 here in Germany. The seller wouldn’t ship, unfortunately.

    Thom Hogan speculates the N1 may become a collector’s item. I can’t see that coming. Whenever I recommend the N1 to a bird enthusiast in a photo forum, he replies instantly: no, this is discontinued, I want to buy the future, maybe get a Lumix G9 or an Olympus E-M1 ii for as little as Euro 2,000+.

    Upkeeping my N1 will remain affordable. And when my solid German boots get a hole, I’ll have them fixed with a new sole.

    1. Hi Stefan,

      One of my CX 70-300 mm zooms has been repaired three times under warranty. I don’t know for sure if it was a cable issue or not. Both of my copies seem to be working well at the present time. Within the past while I’ve also had my 32 mm f/1.2 and one of my 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 fixed under warranty. Both had aperture control issues.

      A reader here in Canada recently sold all of his Nikon 1 gear. I think he had a V3 and a pair of J5s along with a good assortment of lenses. Everything went very quickly and he got quite good prices for his gear. Local market conditions obviously affect pricing.

      I’m not sure if Nikon 1 will end up being collectors items or not. The gear is very unique so one never knows. Since the system has been discontinued I’ve had quite a few people contact me about buying into the system now. Its as if they never even heard of the system until it was discontinued. I did a bird photography presentation to a large camera club here in Ontario. I was amazed with how many people in the audience came up at break to take pictures of my gear. They were all very disappointed when I told them that the system had been discontinued.


  4. My photography gear budget is now my oil painting budget.

    I’d just use a phone for a year or so and let the dust settle before I replaced anything.

    1. Thanks for adding to the discussion Mark! I think many people would relate to your ‘let the dust settle’ comment, given all of the changes in the camera market right now.


  5. Hi Tom
    During years I amassed all possible formats and media: Film from 35mm to 4×5, digital from Nikon 1 to MF. On my way I was constantly seeking biggest format possible, limited only by financial possibilities.
    A catastrophic event is a very strong assumption, but an interesting thought-play. My solution would depend on the amount of insurance money I would receive. With thislimitation I would go for a combination of MF and FF (travels). I still would like to pursue analog a bit, luckily this is not very expensive today, so perhaps 4×5, because (8×10 negatives are very expensive), but I would have to think about the format longer to decide definitely.
    Nikon 1 is good, but no more available freely and Z7 small enough for me.
    Conclusion: After such catastrophic event I would work with essentially the same formats and gear, naturally pruned in numbers, and would have to do without Nikon 1. I do not think I would buy something different in 1“, as long as I deem Z7 to be light and small enough.

    1. Thanks for adding to the discussion Robert! It is always interesting to read about other people’s experiences with a wide range of formats. Like you, I would not replace my Nikon 1 gear with another camera with a 1″ sensor. I like the flexibility of using an interchangeable lens system… so moving to a bridge camera with a 1″ sensor does not appeal to me. As far as film goes… I cut my teeth with film back in 1974 with an entry level Nikkormat. I never enjoyed the ‘film days’ at all and much prefer digital photography.


  6. While not catastrophic, I had a recent failure while on vacation. I had four cameras with me: D750 with Tamron 17-35; D810 with Tamron 24-85; D7500 with Sigma 100-400 C & a TG-5 (for underwater). I was roaming around with the D750 and D810 taking pictures inside the ship. After taking a # of pics, I checked the D750 and the pics displayed looked liked they had been shot at some outrageously high ISO. I checked the menu, and the screen display did not work right. I figured the pics were toast. Wrong. When downloaded to my laptop the pics were okay, it was just a failure of the cameras’ screen. I shot pics on another day, but had to almost guess at menu settings. So some failures may not be as catastrophic as you originally guess/expect. The D750 still needs to be repaired, but works great otherwise.

    1. Hi William,

      Luckily your D750 was still functional to a reasonable degree.

      I had one of my V2s rear screen die while in New Zealand. I also had a CX 70-300 develop a shudder at about 240 mm while in New Zealand. My V2 was totally out of commission… while my CX 70-300 would work on a limited basis. With all that gear… what would you do if it all was lost or destroyed? Would you repurchase the same equipment… or would you make some changes?


      1. My eventual kit (plan):
        D750 with Tamron 17-35
        D810 with Tamron 35-150 (to be released in May, 2019)
        D7500 with Sigma 100-400.
        I also own a Sigma 150-600 for when I need even longer reach.
        Now, if I had the cash and could take the weight, I would use three D850s. Unfortunately my Lotto ticket did not win (again), nor am I in physical shape for that much weight. If not birding, then I would just use the first two cameras listed. If birding, I might carry just the last two cameras listed. That weight is not too bad for walk-around in either case. My big hands just don’t work well on some of the smaller cameras, so DSLRs for me.
        I like the options, so I believe I would replace if lost or stolen.

  7. WOW, you did a lot of thinking for this article! And you are right there is a lot of consideration needed in many different areas. Plenty of homework. But first I would need time to mourn my loss before I could think straight.

    1. Hi Joni,
      Sometimes my old, porous brain goes off on a tangent… I never know where they lead! I had some recent discussions with some associates about these types of situations and that was likely the basis for this article.

  8. Hi Tom,

    I can fully relate to what you wrote about — I myself, have migrated to APS-C mirrorless from full frame Nikon a year ago since I am shooting for myself again and not for a living anymore. The weight and size of the FF camera and lenses are a drag when hiking; they tend to be tucked into my backpack instead of hanging on my neck during climbs for fear of dropping, knocking the gear off. I know my route is not the normal one, nor is it fail-safe. Some quarters have been clamoring for Sony to somehow give some attention to its APS-C line. In fairness, Sony released the A6400 a few weeks back but the lens road map is still wanting though because of its open-engineering policy, Sigma has been shoring up the lack of lens for APS-C bodies for the E-mount. Tell you the truth, I don’t envision myself going back to full-frame. I simply don’t need it. Also, if only Nikon released a mirrorless APS-C camera, I would’ve stayed in their camp but I guess it was time to move on. On my part, I would hold on to my gear until the time they wear out.

    Regarding DSLRs, they may be headed towards a niche market, IMHO. I’ve been a loyal Nikon user for 12 years before I made a carefully-considered/studied switch and I can only conclude that no amount of press releases stating they would continue developing products for both the F and Z mounts would make that true; it’s understandable they’re trying to calm down the apprehensions of F-mount lenses owners. The dedicated camera market is shrinking, and shrinking fast. Wasn’t it the other day when DPReview posted that Canon is bracing for lower sales due to shrinking markets due to inroads made by cameraphones? It wouldn’t be sensible for Nikon to pursue both mounts and give them equal importance. Some smart aleck said that the present camera race is no longer just about optics but sensor technology, and I can’t help but agree.


    1. Hi Oggie,

      Thanks for adding to the discussion… always interesting to follow your journey.

      I will never be returning to full frame camera gear either. Smaller sensor cameras work well for me, but I must admit I’m not sure what direction I will go when my Nikon 1 equipment wears out. I’ve had a couple of recent warranty repairs… so one never knows how much life is left in various components. With my kit being discontinued it is also a question mark for how long service support will be available.

      When the March CIPA data is out I’ll be doing a camera market update article. The first two months of 2019 have looked pretty ugly with very serious degrees of volume declines. I think part of this may be folks extending their gear use… waiting to see what happens with Nikon and Canon mirrorless cameras and lenses.


        1. Hi Oggie,

          Thanks for sharing the link. I have a number of associates who would agree that it is much harder than it used to be to make a good income as a photographer. Even pros who used to make a good living selling use of their images through services like Getty Images are having a much tougher time these days.

          I don’t think I have ever known a photographer who was a full time employee of a company (other then back in my newspaper days) … every photographer I’ve known has been a freelancer.


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